Global Entry program might be worth the cost for frequent international travelers

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Department of Homeland Security

Globe-trotting U.S. citizens will be able to zip past long lines at customs if they qualify for a new government program that’s designed to speed up the check-in process. However, the convenience comes at a price: Each applicant must pay $100 and submit to a thorough background check, so it’s worth it only for consumers who travel abroad regularly.

The Global Entry program is like paying extra for an amusement park ticket that allows you to avoid waiting in line for your favorite rides. Global Entry allows travelers who are considered to be low security risks to re-enter the country and pass through a kiosk in less than 5 minutes rather than wait in long lines to see a customs official.

You may apply online at globalentry.gov. The $100 fee is nonrefundable and you must renew your membership every 5 years. Joanne Ferreira, who is a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, says the program is used at 20 international airports in the United States, which are listed at globalentry.gov/terminalmaps.html.

We believe that the cost might be worth it for frequent international travelers—say, someone who travels abroad at least five times a year. But Global Entry isn’t worth the cost or hassle for a family that travels abroad every couple of years. For instance, if you have four people in your family, you’d pay $400 to eliminate what typically is a 20–30-minute wait to see a customs official. Of course, that wait can be longer at the largest airports, such as at John F. Kennedy International Airport or Los Angeles International Airport.

Ferreira also says Global Entry preferred lanes are set up at land crossings at the U.S./Canada and U.S./Mexico borders and that the check-in process takes 5 minutes. She says the program might be useful for travelers who live within 100 miles of the Canadian or Mexican border and cross the border frequently. For instance, if an individual crosses the border five times a year, Global Entry would equal out to $20 per trip.

– K. Fanuko